Over the past three weeks, the lives of eight million Nepalese people have been changed beyond recognition.
First, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck on 25 April, leaving some 8,000 people dead and more than double that number injured.
A little more than two weeks later, a second earthquake struck on 12 May, of magnitude 7.3.
The powerful tremor killed dozens of people and injured more than 2,000.
I would like to express my sincere condolences to everyone who lost beloved family members, friends and colleagues. A disaster of this scale affects every community and every sector of society.
Some 400,000 homes were destroyed and another 280,000 damaged.
Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless and in urgent need of emergency shelter, food, clean water and healthcare.
The earthquakes affected 39 of Nepal’s 75 districts.
Some of the hardest-hit villages are in the most remote locations, on top of Nepal’s beautiful and majestic mountains.
Sadly, the number of people killed is still rising as aid workers reach these communities.
The Government of Nepal has led the response effort and the Nepal Armed forces have played a key role in locating people in remote areas who have been cut off from help.
During the initial days, the Nepalese Army search and rescue teams evacuated over 2,400 people from isolated communities to Kathmandu and Pokhara.
The army mobilized some 10,000 troops to support the relief operation.
We deployed a UN Disaster Assessment Coordination team within 24 hours to support the Government’s efforts.
Among other things, this team helped to coordinate the arrival and deployment of 76 search and rescue teams from 31 countries that arrived in the next few days.
More than 1,870 rescue and medical personnel and almost 120 search dogs were involved.
I thank all the countries and organizations that sent support in those vital hours after the earthquake struck, including the Member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the European Union and other multilateral institutions.
Nearly three weeks since the first earthquake, international search and rescue personnel and medical teams are now leaving Nepal.
But humanitarian operations are intensifying. Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos has just returned from the disaster zone.
Relief goods are entering the country more quickly.
Aid routes are becoming more accessible.
Humanitarian agencies and their partners are relying on the resilience of local communities. They are working at the local level to get help to the most vulnerable.
They are using every means possible to reach communities that are cut off from transportation networks.
Members of the Nepal Trekkers Association are climbing to the most remote communities to distribute relief materials where there is no access by road or air.
Overall, more than a million people have been reached with food, and some 350,000 have been provided with clean water. More than 150,000 families have been provided with emergency shelter materials.
Emergency health teams are present across the country. Medical tents have been provided to many of the 26 hospitals and more than 900 health centres that have been damaged.
Humanitarian aid is making a difference, but we need to do more.
With the monsoon season starting in June, there is an urgent need to make sure that nearly half a million people have emergency shelter before the rains start in earnest. Heavy rain and hail are already affecting people living in tents.
The monsoon season is also the planting season. If farmers are unable to prepare their land and plant their fields, next year’s harvest will be severely affected.
The monsoon season will also increase the danger of cholera and other water-borne diseases. Some areas of Nepal have lost almost all their water and sanitation facilities. There is a real danger that heavy rains could result in a major epidemic.
I cannot stress enough the importance of getting aid, including clean water and sanitation supplies, to everyone in need within the next few weeks.
Support is also urgently needed to generate emergency employment, promote local economic recovery, and ensure livelihood support.
Even as we deal with these pressing needs, we must look ahead, mindful of the continuum from emergency assistance to support for recovery and development.
Emergency relief is never enough. Saving people’s lives is important but people must also be able to sustain their livelihoods. They want a future.
Cash interventions and emergency employment offer interim support, but efforts to stimulate small and medium enterprises, and to use locally sourced skills and materials, will have long reaching benefits.
Nepal has been torn apart. Years of development gains have been wiped out.
Tens of thousands of people who had been brought out of poverty are at risk of falling back.
Basic social services, in particular healthcare and education, have been interrupted. The housing sector, power generation, communications and tourism have all suffered badly. And there are clear lessons emerging about building risk awareness and reduction into the reconstruction effort.
Discussions between the Government, the European Union, the development Banks and the UN are already underway, and plans for an initial post-disaster needs assessment are in progress.
This assessment, covering both the economic and social losses, will bring partners together behind a single, Government-led recovery plan.
Experience has shown that the post disaster period is an opportunity to reassess vulnerabilities and to build back better.
Our efforts in Nepal, therefore, must be ambitious, long-term and risk-informed if they are to protect against future losses.
This is the first major natural disaster to strike since the international agreement on disaster risk reduction was reached in Sendai in March.
A key component of that agreement was a commitment to undertake a resilient recovery approach in the event of a disaster. We must now support Nepal in translating this new global framework into action.
I am pleased and encouraged by the solidarity shown by Member States to Nepal at this critical time.
I appreciate the General Assembly’s efforts to help the people of Nepal cope with their devastating loss.
The Flash Appeal launched on 28 April, calls for $423 million to support the people of Nepal through the immediate life-saving response phase. I want to thank all member states who have contributed so far. However, without more robust support, more lives will be lost.
The appeal is currently only 14 per cent funded at about $60 million. This includes $15 million allocated from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). An additional $365 million is urgently needed.
Needless to say, the 14 percent funding is far from sufficient. Let us resolve to do more and better.
We are overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of humanitarian challenges around the world. Humanitarian partners urgently need funds to be able to do their work.
In Nepal, we have an opportunity to make a real difference in the next weeks and months. With your continued help, the UN and our partners will support the people of Nepal as they recover and rebuild.
I count on your strong support and leadership. Thank you.